Best things to do on a Wicklow Mountains Road Trip
The Wicklow Mountains National Park in Ireland covers over 20,000 hectares of stunning scenery and mountain hikes. The park includes the incredible historic valley of Glendalough and its historical legacy. A Wicklow Road Trip is a brilliant way to see the Irish countryside and make memories for a lifetime.
The Wicklow Mountains National Park can be found just south of Dublin. Located in County Wicklow (obviously) the National Park makes an incredible day trip from Dublin and is one of the most scenic national parks in Ireland’s Ancient East.
Entry Fee to the Wicklow National Park
There is no entry fee to Wicklow Mountains National Park. Entry to both the National Park and the National Park Information Office are free of charge. However, if you are driving there is a car park charge of around €4 per car in the Upper Lake car park.
The Visitor Centre for the Monastic site in Glendalough has a charge to enter the exhibition, although the Monastic site itself is free of charge. The Visitor Centre car park charges on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, but is free at other times.
- Best things to do on a Wicklow Mountains Road Trip
- What are the Wicklow mountains?
- Where are the Wicklow mountains
- Wicklow Mountains scenic drive
- Where to stay in Wicklow mountains
The park can get incredibly busy on weekends when many locals head to the area for hiking and walking. When we went to the Park it took nearly 2 hours to reach the parking lot. There is an overflow parking lot in Laragh which has a shuttle bus to the Visitor Centre. However, if you drive through Wicklow mountains there is so much to see you will be stopping every few minutes to take photos.
What are the Wicklow mountains?
The Wicklow Mountains take up the entire centre of County Wicklow and stretch into Dublin, Wexford and Carlow. Near Dublin, the mountains are known as the Dublin Mountains. The highest of the Wicklow Mountains is called Lugnaquilla.
These mountains have been inhabited since the Neolithic era and they contain a series of monuments from passage tombs to the Monastery at Glendalough.
During the 12the century Norman invasion, the Wicklow Mountains provided hiding places and shelter for the Irish clans fighting against the English.
The entire area is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and as a Special Protection Area under European Union law.
Where are the Wicklow mountains
The Wicklow Mountains are an easy drive from Dublin if you have rented a car and it takes about an hour to get there.
Wicklow mountains from Dublin
If you don’t fancy renting a car when in Ireland you can get to the Wicklow Mountains in several other ways although the options are limited because there really is no public transport to Wicklow.
Bus to Wicklow
The St. Kevins Bus Service is a privately owned, family-run business, that operates daily services to Glendalough and Wicklow national park from Dublin during the season.
From Dublin, the bus leaves from St. Stephen’s Green North at 11:30 and costs € 20.00
one way € 13.00.
From Bray Town Hall you can catch the bus at 12:10 and a Return Fare costs € 15.00 and a one way € 9.00.
Wicklow Mountains By Tour Providers
There are lots of private tour companies that take trips to Glendalough and the National Park area but some of the roads are pretty narrow and it may be best if you want to see more to do a hike once you get there.
Wicklow Mountains scenic drive
County Wicklow is known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ because of its stunning landscapes and the diversity within its woodlands, mountains and lakes – or lochs as they are known here.
Ballysmuttan Bridge, River Liffey
If you are a fan of the scenery in P.S. I Love You this is the bridge used in the film. Situated over the Liffey (which does flow through Dublin) you can admire the same scenery you saw in the film. The actual address is 28 Sandford Road, Wicklow, Dublin 6, Ireland.
Guinness is actually brewed from the water in the Wicklow Mountains and piped into Dublin because it is so pure and clear and not the Liffey as rumour has it.
Another filming location you may not want to miss is Lough Tay, also known as Guinness Lake. This is the lake that was used as Kattegut in The Vikings HBO series. Lough Tay is one of Wicklow’s most photographed areas; from this viewpoint, you can spot the Guinness Estate, which has recently been bought by a private buyer who reportedly purchased the stunning 5,000-acre Luggala estate for about $22 million.
Driving up the Sally Gap on the R759 you will see on Google maps the Ballinastoe Car Park to the side of the road. Park your car here and then cross the road for some stupendous views of the Wicklow Mountains and Loch Tay.
Glendalough and Wicklow mountains
The Glendalough Monastic Site is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Ireland according to Lonely Planet.
Glendalough’s Monastic site is located near Lower Lake – there is a very small parking area across from the main entryway. The medieval stone arches that you enter through are Ireland’s only surviving example of such a gateway.
This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and from this developed the ‘Monastic City’. Despite attacks by Vikings over the years, Glendalough thrived as one of Ireland’s great ecclesiastical foundations and schools of learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214 A.D. St.
The ‘city’ consists of a number of ruins and remains the tallest and most impressive being the round tower which stands over 30 meters high. The City contains several churches, a graveyard and some ancient Celtic Crosses.
There is no charge to visit the site but if you want to see the Visitors Centre exhibition the cost is around €5,00 per adult.
Glendalough Walks & Lakes
Glendalough walks and lakes are jaw-droppingly beautiful. An area of outstanding natural beauty is it also home to one of the most important historic sites in Ireland.
Glendalough has 9 marked walks from easy to difficult for walkers. The Visitor Centre in Glendalough sells a Trail Guide for only €0.50. The maps list the nine routes with the shortest distance being a few kilometres and the longest 11 kilometres.
The two lakes at Glendalough are known as Lower Lake and Upper Lake. The main parking area, the Glendalough Visitors’ Centre, the Glendalough Hotel, and most of the monastic ruins are located near Lower Lake on the east end of the site.
The Upper Lake area has an overflow parking lot with washrooms, and stalls for picnics, coffee and ice cream. On a busy day, it can take over an hour to get into one of the parking lots and the place is jam-packed with both Irish and tourists. There is no fee to enter the Park, from the parking lots, and the Walks are clearly outlined with signs all along the paths.
Sally Gap Drive
The Sally Gap mountain pass is one of the two passes that meander through the Wicklow Mountains. This drive includes some spectacular views of the area blanket blog and across the Wicklow Mountains.
The Sally Gap got its name after the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The Gap was built by the British Army which wanted to flush out the rebels and to this day the road is called the Military Road.
Make sure to stop at the Glencree Visitor Centre if you have time. It was built to house the British soldiers guarding the pass and is now a Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.
Wicklow Gap Drive
The Wicklow Gap connects Glendalough with the Sally Gap and is the only other road passing through the Wicklow Mountains. They say on a clear day you can see the Snowdonia Mountains in Wales across the Irish sea from here.
Driving the Wicklow Gap near Glencree there is a small parking lot where you can stop and view the two lakes from above. From here you will spot the peat-cutting strips on the side of the hills. This is also an area that was used for the movie Braveheart filing some of the fight scenes.
Blessington Lakes (Poulaphouca Reservoir)
Set in the Wicklow Mountains, the Blessington Lakes cover 5000 acres of water. The Lakes were formed 50 years ago by the building of the Poulaphouca Dam and hydroelectric station.
The road around the lake offers amazing views over the reservoir and the Wicklow Mountains. Drive or cycle around the lake going through historic villages such as Valleymount, Ballyknockan or Lacken.
Powerscourt Estate & Gardens
If you don’t spend the day at Glendalough may I suggest you take the time for a trip to the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens.
On your way back to Dublin you will find Powerscourt about a half an hour drive just outside of Bray.
Set within some of the most stunning views in the east of Ireland. Powerscourt was originally a 13th-century castle whose original owner was a de la Poer (anglicized as Power).
The Gardens at Powerscourt are the great attraction of the place. With stunning views of Sugarloaf Mountain, they stretch over 47 acres and offer a breathtaking blend of formal gardens, statuary, fountains, lakes, Japanese gardens, a Pet Cemetery, the Pepperpot Tower, sweeping terraces, secret hollows and rambling walks.
Don’t forget to go and visit Powerscourt Waterfall it is Ireland’s highest at 121m (398ft.) and is 6km from the Main Estate. It is set in one of Ireland’s most beautiful parklands at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.
The house itself is home to the Avoca Shop and the Avoca Terrace Cafe, which serves up a fabulous lunch or just a simple scone with a cream tea. The Avoca shops are known for their gorgeous handwoven blankets and beautiful weavings.
Wicklow Mountains Map
Here are the best attractions in the Wicklow Mountain map:
Where to stay in Wicklow mountains
In the heart of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, the Glendalough Hotel has views of the ruined Glendalough Cathedral. The hotel offers en suite rooms, a restaurant and a pub. As the Glendalough is located in a valley, most of the rooms have charming countryside and mountain views.
The Glendassan River Restaurant serves local and international cuisine created using fresh, local ingredients. The Glendalough Tavern aims to create a friendly, Irish pub atmosphere and serves bar food. There is also a lounge with an open fire in winter.
Need a whole house then you can rent the Orchid House. Orchid house has a terrace and garden views. Set 16 km from Wicklow Gaol, the property offers a garden and free private parking.
This holiday home has 2 bedrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a flat-screen TV, a seating area and 2 bathrooms fitted with a shower.
A children’s playground is available on site and hiking can be enjoyed within close proximity of the holiday home.
The Bridge Tavern offers accommodation with free WiFi and flat-screen TV, as well as a bar. There is a fully equipped private bathroom with a shower and a hairdryer. Guests at the bed and breakfast can enjoy an à la carte or a Full English/Irish breakfast.
Have you done a Wicklow Mountains road trip yet? It is one of the most popular Irish tourist destinations and is usually the first on everyone’s dream trip to Ireland.
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